Ask the expert.. | Jan Feb 09

Rufus is five-year-old and his teeth have become yellowish. How can I take care of his teeth?
– Vikas Gupta, Meerut

Just like human being, dogs need to get their teeth brushed and cleaned. But the fact is, probably the number one health problem for dogs, apart from being overweight, is periodontal disease. More than 80 percent of dogs over two years of age who haven’t received regular dental care have such kind of teeth problem. The accumulation of tartar and plaque and the resulting gingivitis can lead to more serious diseases. Owners can lightly brush their dog’s teeth at least twice a week to remove plaque deposits. A child’s nylon toothbrush dipped in a toothpaste made for dogs should be used. Do not use tooth pastes made for humans, which can cause nausea in dogs if swallowed. An alternative to brushing is using a dental chew.

How to brush your dog’s teeth: Start by putting a small amount of the toothpaste on your finger and gently rubbing it on your dog’s front teeth and gums. After a few times, switch from a finger to a dog’s or a child’s toothbrush, one with soft, rounded bristles. Start by brushing the front teeth only, with a downward motion on the top teeth and upward on the lower teeth-the same way we’re supposed to brush our own teeth. After your dog gets used to this new activity, start brushing the premolars, then molars with the same motion you used on the front teeth. Vet dentistry is very similar to human dentistry in practice and vets use safe sedation or anaesthesia for any dental work or scaling.

My dog licks the face of my 10-month-old daughter. My concerns are: can any disease be transmitted to my daughter through such activity? And also how should I tell my dog not to lick? Please advice.
– Sneh, Patna

Rabies is most serious zoonosis transmitted by saliva of infected animal while sore throats and diarrhoea causing bugs are very few examples of more than 50 diseases that are transmitted from pets to humans. Pregnant women, asthmatic patients, infants, elderly people and immuno-compromised people should avoid handling pets. Most cases of human infections can be prevented by practising good personal hygiene and precautions about keeping pets and washing your hands regularly. Discourage pets to lick children’s faces. Wash or change bedding frequently. Dispose excreta properly.

Lastly keep pet animals healthy by preventive vaccination and deworming and visiting your vet for regular medical check-up. When your puppy does any inappropriate behaviour, stop it immediately by telling the pup ‘No’ meaning ‘Stop whatever you’re doing right now.’ Act early before bad habits become established. Ignore your puppy when he behaves inappropriately, rather than giving him attention. When the pup stops the bad behaviour, make sure you reward the pup with ‘GOOD’ followed by the puppy’s name. Puppies want to make their owners happy and you need to help them by your voice tone when they are being good. Praise your puppy when all four of his feet are on the ground. Providing chews, exercise and playing with your dog regularly help to alleviate excess energy and provide positive interaction.

I have a four-year-old Cocker who sometimes looks very sad and quiet. I had taken him to our vet for a health checkup thankfully all is well. I try to pep him up with his toys when I get back. He spends most of his time at home though I take him for his morning and evening walks. Do you think my dog is depressed? What should I do to cheer him up?
– Rajan Pandey, Allahabad

Before you leave, bury toys and hide treats where he can find and ‘dig’ them up. Rawhide chews, a food filled Kong and a food dispensing Buster Cube are some of the things dogs can be left with to help them settle. Scent can also be associated with relaxation and providing old towels, blankets, impregnated with the scent of the person whom he is attached to can help maintain a state of calm when that person goes out. Keeping a TV or radio on can also provide ‘company’ for your pooch. You can also consider having a second dog.

Can I feed my five-month-old puppy with fish? We also give her rice and milk or roti and milk, is that fine?
– Kapil Minocha, Ghaziabad

Our research indicates that most homemade diets/baby foods fed to dogs in India are inadequate and do not meet recommended nutritional requirements. Fish is excellent source for protein but lack some vitamins/minerals, likewise milk and rice lack or has low level of some essential nutrients required for dogs. Prepared pet foods from reputed pet food manufacturers like Pedigree are available with a guarantee of nutritional adequacy, quality and safety.

I want to adopt a pup but have asthma. Will my problem get worse with dog hair?
– Rasna, Shimla

It is a known fact that dander/hair inhalation, particularly from cats, can trigger attacks in some asthmatic patients or those individuals susceptible to allergy. However, dog hair is less likely to trigger asthma in susceptible individuals. You can choose a shorthaired breed to avoid excessive hair shedding problems.

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